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2034

by Frank Schnittger Sun Sep 10th, 2017 at 07:39:10 PM EST

Nobody had really expected Brexit to have quite the consequences it eventually had. For some it was simply an expression of a latent English nationalism that had been triumphant in the Second World War, and which had been overwhelmed by the peace which followed. Somehow the EU didn't quite give adequate expression to the enormity of British success in that war, or compensate adequately for the loss of empire which followed.

For others it was simply a domestic response to a domestic problem. Immigration was changing the shape of English life. Whole towns and cities were becoming dominated by an immigrant culture that might have had many merits, but it simply wasn't English. Ethnically Indian and Pakistani immigrants might speak with posh English accents and play cricket. Footballers and athletes of African origin might dominate the Premier League and bring Olympic success. But it wasn't quite the same thing as having Ethel or Timothy next door make it to the big time.

For still others Brexit was a rebellion against an establishment which had delivered years of austerity; at declining public services and rising prices for privatised public utilities. A protest at the bankers and financiers of London who grew wealthy while every other region of the United Kingdom declined. A rejection of the globalisation which seemed to benefit the third world more than the first. A resentment that so many decisions seemed to be made by faceless and unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. A sense of powerlessness in the face of a world being moved by foreign forces, beyond English control.

Read more... (5 comments, 1018 words in story)

The Third Tribe of Ulster

by Frank Schnittger Sat Sep 2nd, 2017 at 09:56:33 AM EST

Newton Emerson asks us to remember the Third Tribe of Ulster - one that is largely of Scottish descent, Presbyterian beliefs, and prone to dreaming of an Independent Ulster rather than one tied to either England or Ireland. Politically it is represented by the Paisleyite Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), rather than the previously dominant and anglophile Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and holds the English (perfidious Albion) in almost as much suspicion as do Irish Nationalists, formerly represented mostly by the Social Democrat and Labour Party (SDLP) and now by Sinn Fein.

Historically, he certainly has a point, but there is a another more modern third tribe his analysis ignores: This third, and possibly fastest growing tribe in N. Ireland today is neither Scottish, English, nor exclusively Irish; neither Roman Catholic, Presbyterian nor Anglican. It is neither Unionist nor nationalist. It is secular, disillusioned with tribal politics, and just wants to get on with life, make a decent living, and not be bothered by all the religious and political fanatics who seek to divide and conquer.

Read more... (57 comments, 831 words in story)

Labour grows up?

by Frank Schnittger Sun Aug 27th, 2017 at 12:26:45 PM EST

At last the British Labour party has decided to do what oppositions are supposed to do and put clear blue water between its policy on Brexit and that of the Tories:

Labour is committing itself to continued UK membership of the EU single market and customs union during a transition period following the official Brexit date of March 2019.

In a dramatic policy shift, the party's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has announced that a Labour government would abide by "the same basic terms" of Britain's current EU membership during the transition, which some observers expect to last as long as four or five years.

And in an article for the Observer, he made clear that the party is open to the possibility of negotiating new single market and customs union terms which the UK could sign up to on a permanent basis.

At June's general election, Labour promised to seek to "retain the benefits" of the single market and customs union as part of a "jobs-first" Brexit, but leader Jeremy Corbyn has so far stopped short of committing to continued membership beyond the date of Brexit.

Read more... (57 comments, 850 words in story)

Sterling devaluation: Cause and effect

by Frank Schnittger Sun Aug 20th, 2017 at 08:57:59 PM EST

My central expectation, repeated in numerous blog posts and comments since the referendum, is that we will see a hard Brexit (defined as one without a substantive Brexit or post Brexit trade deal) accompanied by at least a 30% devaluation of Sterling relative to the Euro.  

Faced with such a devaluation EU policy makers will have little option but to impose tariffs on imports from the UK, if only to preserve the competitiveness of the EU's own industries. If the UK retaliates with tariffs of its own, a hard Brexit will result in a trade war, even worse than the worst case scenario of "no deal" Brexit Pundits, all of whom seem to expect standard WTO tariffs to kick in at that stage.

My point has always been that WTO tariffs have to be negotiated, and there simply isn't any automatic process by which some default set of tariffs will kick in once the UK leaves the EU.

But the 30% relative devaluation figure was always a "finger in the air" guess. It now looks as if I might have been too conservative in my prognostication. Sterling has already declined from 77P to the Euro to 91P to the Euro - a devaluation of 18% since the referendum. Morgan Stanley are now predicting that the euro will trade at £1.02 by the end of the first quarter of 2018 - a total devaluation of 32.5% - and that is before we even know the exact shape that Brexit will take...

Read more... (14 comments, 519 words in story)

Women's Rugby World Cup

by Frank Schnittger Fri Aug 18th, 2017 at 05:07:18 PM EST


The Women's Rugby World Cup is taking place in Ireland at the moment with the initial group stages just completed in Dublin, and the ranking matches, Semi Finals and Finals scheduled for Belfast over the next week. England, with a semi-professional squad, are the holders and favourites, but France have also been investing in their squad, New Zealand are always strong, and the USA have been improving rapidly.

Women's international rugby is an emerging sport with participation, funding and standards improving rapidly from a very low base. Standards are as yet very uneven around the world with many very one-sided encounters in this world cup, the worst of which was a 121-0 drubbing of Hong Kong by New Zealand.

Ireland won the Women's Six Nations Championship with a grand slam in 2013 and again in 2015 and finished fourth in the 2014 Women's world Cup but have struggled to beat Australia and Japan in their first two matches this time around. They have just lost to France 21-5 in a very good match watched by over three million people on TV in France alone.

Read more... (6 comments, 536 words in story)

Now you see it, now you don't

by Frank Schnittger Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 01:36:29 PM EST

The UK's Brexit secretary David Davis Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Leo Varadker's pre-emptive shot across the bows appears to have had the desired effect of scaring the British off any notions of re-imposing border controls on the island of Ireland. However in forcing the UK to discard discredited notions of a frictionless tech border he has done no more than inspire another bout of "having our cake and eating it" thinking on the part of the UK Government. Somehow the UK is going to leave the EU, Single Market and Custom's Union without imposing any sort of border controls within Ireland at all at all...

Clearly, the UK government wants to keep the Irish Government on side while also keeping the DUP sweet.  The result is that it is effectively seeking to cast the EU in the role of the bad boy seeking to re-impose hard border controls within Ireland. Trusted trader status for Irish companies and exemptions for small cross border traders may seem like music to the ears of business and political leaders, North and south, but why should the rest of the EU tolerate it?

Read more... (32 comments, 1046 words in story)

Booman should run for Office

by Frank Schnittger Wed Aug 9th, 2017 at 12:54:10 PM EST

[Cross-posted from the Booman Tribune]

With Booman off on his holidays to consider his future, I thought I might contribute an outside perspective which he may, or may not, find of interest.  All of us have benefited greatly from his analyses here, and the platform he provides for further discussion and debate. For me his is the go to site for insights on US political developments. But maybe the time has come for Booman to consider entering the fray directly, rather than just being an informed commentator and bystander.

By chance I recently found myself waiting in a surgery idly looking through the first few pages of Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope". In it he describes his somewhat crazy decision to run for the Senate as a more or less no hope outsider. He justified it to his long suffering wife as a one last shot at making a difference in politics. She reluctantly agreed but didn't promise him her vote. She wanted a greater contribution from him towards family life and raising their kids.

However the dysfunctionality he describes in US public life has been amplified many times since the election of Donald Trump. If ever there was a time to take responsibility and attempt to lead the US out of the swamp it has entered, it is now. The long odds really aren't the issue. It is the principle that matters. So why should Booman run for office?

Read more... (18 comments, 858 words in story)

Brexit balance of power swings from UK to Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Tue Aug 8th, 2017 at 07:09:39 PM EST

Fintan O'Toole's "Brexiteers' foolishness gives Ireland control" has neatly summarised what I have been saying over a number of posts in the last few months:

Yes, those really are vague pink glimmers in the early morning sky. Reality is dawning on the Brexiteers. Once, they were going to walk away from the European Union in March 2019, whistling Rule Britannia and greeting queues of foreign supplicants begging for trade deals. Now, they are hoping to cling on until June 2022. They know they are going over a cliff and realise that it is better to climb down slowly than to plunge off the top.

But this climbdown also creates a crucial weakness - one that explains why the Irish Government's tone has changed so radically.

To understand this new weakness, we have to recall that there were two possible scenarios in which the Irish Government had very little power. One was that the UK would simply walk away from the EU without any deal, the car-crash Brexit for which British prime minister Theresa May's old mantra, "No deal is better than a bad deal", was meant to be the overture. If that happened, Ireland was completely impotent.

The other possible scenario was the straightforward one set out in article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The UK and the EU would negotiate a full exit deal by March 2019. In this case, Ireland would have very little power either. Even if the deal was a betrayal of our interests, we could not veto it.

The deal would have to be ratified by the European Parliament and then by the European Council. But, crucially, the council has to accept the deal only by a qualified majority. In both bodies, therefore, Ireland could easily be out-voted.

Read more... (53 comments, 1273 words in story)

Leo Varadkar Slams UK on Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jul 29th, 2017 at 10:33:12 AM EST

Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney once famously characterised the polite Irish society approach to difficult or awkward topics as "whatever you say, say nothing" and Irish politicians have, in the main, practised that down to a fine art. Even sports coaches and players are quick to praise their opponents, lest any derogatory comments be pinned on the opposing dressing-room walls as motivational material for the battle ahead. "They think you're shite" the opposition coach would say: "Just look at what they said about you", pointing to the offending article pinned to the wall. "Now prove them wrong!".

One of the reasons Leo Varadkar stood out from a pack of fairly mediocre ministers to win the Fine Gael leadership and prime ministership was his willingness to buck the trend and come out with the occasional, usually well calibrated and orchestrated "outspoken comment" to demonstrate a fresh and open approach to politics. He would only be saying, of course, what many had been saying quietly for quite some time, but couldn't quite bring themselves to say publicly, for fear of causing offence...

Now he's gone done it again with Brexit: Defiant Varadkar tells British: we won't design Brexit border for you. Taoiseach says `if anyone should be angry, it's us.'

"What we're not going to do is to design a border for the Brexiteers because they're the ones who want a border. It's up to them to say what it is, say how it would work and first of all convince their own people, their own voters that this is actually a good idea," Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar said there was a political border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, but not an economic one.

"As far as this Government is concerned there shouldn't be an economic border. We don't want one," he said.

"It's the UK, it's Britain that has decided to leave and if they want to put forward smart solutions, technological solutions for borders of the future and all of that that's up to them.

"We're not going to be doing that work for them because we don't think there should be an economic border at all. That is our position. It is our position in negotiations with the British Government and it's the very clear position that we have when we engage with the task force that is negotiating on our behalf with the UK."

Mr Varadkar said an economic border would not be in the interests of the Republic, Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom, "and we're not going to be helping them to design some sort of border that we don't believe should exist in the first place".

---<snip>---

Meanwhile, asked if he was frustrated with the British approach to Brexit talks, Mr Varadkar said: "If anyone should be angry, it's us, quite frankly."

"We have an agreement. We signed up to the single European Act. We joined the EC alongside the United Kingdom. We have a Good Friday Agreement and part of the Good Friday Agreement...talks about working together and continuing to do so within the context of the EU."


Read more... (94 comments, 1232 words in story)

Whistling in the wind...

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jul 17th, 2017 at 11:41:15 PM EST

Participating, as I do, in various discussion forums outside of the European tribune, I am always struck by how hostile Brexiteers are to the EU project as a whole, and then, in the next breath, still seem to expect the EU to cut them a generous deal in the Brexit talks.

As a general rule, if you are hoping to get a good deal from a negotiating adversary, it is not a good idea to keep telling them how much you hate them and wish them ill. Yet Theresa May has recently promoted a Minister who said that the EU has failed on its own terms and should be "torn down".

Increasingly, it seems, Brexiteers are also seeking to use Ireland as a Trojan horse with which to divide the EU and weaken the EU negotiating position. On the one hand you have Nigel Farage arguing that Ireland would be far better off throwing it's lot in with the UK and leaving the EU, and on the other hand the UK appears to be hoping to use Ireland's dependency on UK trade as a means to force the EU to concede generous free trade terms to the UK post Brexit.

So what is it the UK wants? Ireland leaving the EU with the UK to reinforce Brexit, or Ireland within the EU to weaken the EU's resolve to drive a hard bargain? Either way, the Irish Government has shown no sign of deviating from the common EU27 negotiating position.

Boris Johnson recently told the Commons that the EU can "go whistle" if it thought the UK were going to pay what he considered an extortionate exit payment - to which Michel Barnier replied that he could hear no whistling, merely the sound of a clock ticking...

Meanwhile normally reticent and discreet Irish Ministers express increasing frustration at the lack of a coherent plan for Brexit coming from UK Ministers, making planning for Brexit almost impossible.

This soap opera is going to run and run, and we're only into season 1!

Comments >> (147 comments)

Appointing Judges in Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jul 1st, 2017 at 08:23:12 PM EST

Both the Irish Independent and the Irish Times (scroll down the page) have published my letter criticising the hypocrisy of Judges criticising elected politicians for commenting on the suitability of Judges on the grounds of the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government, and then in almost the same breath seeking to influence the legislature in its deliberations:

Sir, - Chief Justice Susan Denham saw fit to rebuke Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin over his Dáil comments about former attorney general Máire Whelan and reminded us of the separation of powers between the branches of government and the necessity to maintain some distance between them.

Just days later, Mr Justice Peter Kelly is reported ("Leading judge says Government moves to reform judicial appointments `ill advised'", June 24th) as criticising Shane Ross's proposals for reforming the judicial appointments process as "ill conceived" and "ill advised", and the way in which they were being rushed through the Dáil when (in his view) other matters before the courts warranted a higher priority from legislators.

Could it be that our esteemed learned friends are trying to have it both ways, telling legislators how and when to do their jobs whilst being extremely sensitive about any comments directed towards them by our parliamentarians?

Whatever the merits of Shane Ross's proposals, surely it is right and proper that the process of appointing judges should be debated and decided by our democratically elected representatives at a time of their choosing, and not by those who are the primary beneficiaries of the process? - Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER,

Read more... (33 comments, 1841 words in story)

Frank's Story Index

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jun 21st, 2017 at 06:14:47 PM EST

The 408 articles I have posted on the European Tribune since Wed Nov 28th. 2007 are grouped somewhat arbitrarily under the 13 headings below with the latest listed first.

1. Human Rights (30)
2. Energy, Climate Change, Transport and the Environment (14)
3. Irish Economy (31)
4. Irish Politics (69)
5. Irish European Referenda and Elections (43)
6. Brexit(45)
7. The EU and the Eurozone (46)
8. US Politics (64)
9. Global economics, politics, foreign policy and war. (15)
10. Sport (14)
11. Personal Topics (20)
12. The European Tribune, Blogging and the Internet (13)
13. Just having a laugh (5)

Stories are listed only once even though many could have been listed under several headings. For direct access to a story please click on the titles in blue below.

Read more... (14 comments, 5631 words in story)

Some self-reflections on Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jun 21st, 2017 at 06:04:01 PM EST

Sometimes you have to examine your motives for writing stridently on a particular topic: what is it that provokes you to turn to print? I have now written over 400 articles for the European Tribune, and 40 of them have been on Brexit in the last year alone.

On the one hand, it is hardly surprising that a European community blog should focus on a topic like Brexit, and ever since I was made an editor I have felt a responsibility to try to keep the front page ticking over on at least some of the core issues effecting Europe.

But there have been many other reasons why I think Brexit is one of the seminal issues of our time and why I am so militantly opposed to it and everything which gave it birth.

I feel I owe you an explanation.

Read more... (23 comments, 1711 words in story)

LQD - Channelling Fintan O'Toole

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jun 17th, 2017 at 09:26:07 AM EST

Fintan O'Toole has long been one of Ireland's best writers and recently won the George Orwell prize for journalism and a European press award for his commentaries on Brexit. His latest piece parodies the DUP's love affair with the Conservative party and all things British...

DUP's crush on Britain will end badly

It is one thing to be infatuated with someone who just ignores you. The unfulfilled love retains its bittersweet purity, its dreamy half-life of pure possibility. But the true tragedy occurs when your love is apparently consummated at last and you find that the loved one really despises you. The DUP has long dreamed of being wrapped fully in the warm embrace of the Tory world with which it strives so hard to identify. And now, miraculously, its moment has come. But the loved one is thinking of England, sneaking glances at her watch and praying "Oh god! When will this be over?"

Read more... (10 comments, 451 words in story)

Brexit Mania

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jun 11th, 2017 at 07:03:01 PM EST

For some strange reason I am vaguely encouraged by the outcome of the British general election, and it is not because the numbers turned out to be broadly as I expected they would be. Theresa May must be one of the worst leaders that even the Tories have ever produced, and no amount of repetition of the mindless "Strong and Stable" mantra could hide that fact.

Equally, the DUP did more or less exactly as I expected they would do in Northern Ireland, and they too have, in Arlene Foster, a leader who is pretty much the worst of a dire lot of predecessors, including Ian Paisley, the party founder, himself. But it is not really the choice of leaders which has me basically equanimous at the election outcome.

It could have been better, it could have been worse, but the outcome of the first post-Brexit election was always going to be something truly awful. The level of delusion, lies and deceit Brexit has introduced into the mainstream of the UK body politic was always going to produce a uniquely toxic stew, and now we can put a name on it: Brexit Mania.

Read more... (25 comments, 1724 words in story)

Leo Varadker to become Irish Prime Minister

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jun 5th, 2017 at 10:42:27 AM EST

Leo Varadker, the son of an immigrant Indian Doctor and an Irish mother, has won the Fine Gael Leadership election and is set to become Taoiseach in the next week or so. To do so he needs to secure the agreement of Fianna Fail to a continuation of their "Confidence and Supply Arrangement" to abstain from votes of No Confidence in order to allow the minority Fine Gael government to remain in office. Several Independent ministers will also have to renew their agreement to support the Government.

Read more... (4 comments, 1010 words in story)

Match Report: Pro12 Semi-final

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 20th, 2017 at 11:27:25 AM EST

Leinster 15 Scarlets 27

Those of us who have ever played competitive sport have been there: You start off confident, perhaps even complacent, because everyone tells you you are the overwhelming favourite.

Read more... (3 comments, 440 words in story)

The problem of German hegemony

by Frank Schnittger Sat May 20th, 2017 at 09:17:29 AM EST

One of the impacts of Brexit on the EU will be to remove one of three most powerful and influential members of the bloc. That can only have the effect of increasing German hegemony unless the other EU and Eurozone members take concerted action to prevent this from happening. So far they have shown little sign of doing so. German led austerity policies remain in the ascendant, particularly in Greece, although economic trends have been improving elsewhere. But politically, German conservatism, inertia, complacency and a sense of entitlement appears to rule the roost.

So why do the other EU member states not take more concerted action to ensure the EU and Eurozone are managed more in their collective interests?

Read more... (14 comments, 791 words in story)

Leo Varadkar early favourite to succeed Enda Kenny

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 19th, 2017 at 03:54:56 PM EST


Simon Coveney and Leo Varadker, chief rivals to replace Enda Kenny.

Enda Kenny has finally resigned as leader of Fine Gael some months after it became clear his days in office were numbered following Fine Gael's disastrous performance in the 2016 General Election. Leo Varadkar has become the early favourite to succeed him as Leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach or Prime Minister of Ireland.

Read more... (5 comments, 1105 words in story)

Can Merkel and Macron renew the EU?

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 15th, 2017 at 09:39:23 PM EST

Far be it for me to write a diary on French politics when there are French bloggers here far more qualified than I to do so. But the election of Macron as President, and now his appointment of a conservative as prime Minister are events of EU wide significance. He has been welcomed with open arms by Chancellor Merkel, and has disabused those who thought he might favour Eurobonds or more radical measures to counter the imbalances within the Eurozone.

So is he just a French version of Tony Blair, come 20 years later? Certainly his abandonment of the Socialist party, his creation of a new centrist En March party, his embrace of liberal democratic market led reformist policies, and now his appointment of a conservative prime Minister are reminiscent of Tony Blair's "third way" policies of the 1990's and early 2000's.  

But what made Tony Blair so deeply unpopular in left wing circles was not just his penchant for liberalising markets and privatising public services, but his poodle like craving for approval from establishment figures like the Queen and US President George W. Bush, and eventually his total complicity in the establishment of a false Casus Belli for war with Iraq.

Read more... (22 comments, 1430 words in story)
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News and Views

 18 - 24 Sep 2017

by Bjinse - Sep 18, 57 comments

Your take on this week's news

 11 - 17 Sep 2017

by Bjinse - Sep 11, 140 comments

Your take on this week's news

 Open Thread 18 - 24 Sep

by Bjinse - Sep 18, 38 comments

The need for threads is greater than the need for answers

 Open Thread 11 - 17 Sep

by Bjinse - Sep 11, 27 comments

Thread's but a walking shadow

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